Licence to run things for better community safety
Joint department serves two councils
IF you want to open a strip club in Beaconsfield or own dangerous wild animals in Amersham, you need to speak to the joint licensing team at South Bucks and Chiltern district councils.
Ok, so there are currently no strip joints within the two councils’ areas and the only dangerous wild animals are ostriches on a farm and a monkey or two in private ownership. But these still need documentation and this is where the joint licensing team comes in.
One of the first teams to merge into one unit serving the two councils, the cost of the licensing team is currently showing a £34,000 per annum saving for the councils and this is set to increase.
And while ostriches and strip clubs are a very small part of the team’s work, the list of things it is responsible may surprise some.
Gambling, including everything from betting shops to slot machines, needs a licence and as well as town centre locations and pubs, the team is responsible for issuing licences to the services on the M40. Tattooists and acupuncturists need licences, as do street traders and charity collections. Mobile home operators and scrap metal collectors also come under the team’s remit.
Nathan March, licensing manager for Chiltern and South Bucks district councils says it’s all about public and community safety and the checks undertaken acquire licences designed to ensure highest standards.
Running a team that serves two councils might seem tricky but it works very well, he says.
“There is much that is similar and works for both councils,” he said. “The legislation doesn’t change, how it is implemented can vary.”
He works closely with the chairmen of the two licensing committees, Cllr Jonathan Rush for Chiltern District Council and Cllr Alan Walters MBE for South Bucks.
By far the greatest proportion of their work is pub licensing and taxi and private hire licences.
In order to get a taxi or private hire vehicle on the road two licences are required, one for the driver and one for the to are the vehicle. Vehicle licences include a compliance test that goes over and above an MOT, which is also required. Checks on drivers include medicals and enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks.
With 378 drivers in Chiltern District and 179 in South Bucks, together with 145 private hire vehicles and 146 taxis in Chiltern and 86 private hire and 71 taxis in South Bucks, the licensing team is kept busy but it also finds time to get out regularly to chat to drivers at the ranks, which are mainly around
LICENSING DUO: Above, Councillor Alan Walters MBE and left, Cllr Jonathan Rush railway stations.
Cllr Walters said: “The checks are there both to safeguard the public and the drivers themselves and the drivers would be very quick to tell us should they spot unlicensed drivers or vehicles in the area. But there are things people using these services can also do to ensure they remain safe and that includes only using licensed vehicles.”
A taxi is easy to spot – it has a taxi sign on the roof – but check for a registration plate on the back. If it doesn’t have a registration plate, don’t get in it. Mr March said: “The other thing to remember is that private hire vehicles must be prebooked, the drivers can’t just pick someone up outside a pub or at the side of the road without a booking.
“So if a private hire driver refuses to give someone a lift even though there is no one in his vehicle, it’s because he’s not allowed – not everyone realises that.”
More information about licensing matters, can be found at www. southbucks.gov.org or www.chiltern.buck.org.